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Faceted classification as an intelligence analysis tool

Jan and Simon are collaborating in the development of a collaborative web-based resource to be called The Energy Centre (TEC). TEC will allow the collaborative collection of clips relating to all aspects of the energy sector. The clips will be stored and organized in such a way that they are not only easily searchable, but can serve as the basis for content analysis - defined as 'a technique for systematic inference from communications'.

Jan began by explaining that it was while working as an intelligence analyst at the Canadian Trend Report in Montreal, that he learned about content analysis, a classic taxonomy-based intelligence research methodology. The insights into emergent trends which content analysis provides had proved of such value to Canadian government organizations that when he returned to England, Jan established Trend Monitor in 1984. Trend Monitor pioneered the publishing of intelligence reports on computing, communications and media, initially in association with Aslib.

Around the same time, Jan met Dr Tony Kent, one of the pioneers of free text software development, and became a director of his company Microbel where they produced and sold Strix, the world's first full function free text database designed to work on PCs. It was his work with Dr. Kent which gave Jan his insight into the ways in which such databases, 'multivariate analysis' and taxonomies could be combined to produce an intelligence analysis tool.

The collection of 'clips' from published media used to be highly effort-intensive, but with modern web-based tools such as Clipmarks, content items can now be collected easily from the Web. However, Clipmarks does not provide anything more than a very basic tagging system for categorizing clips, and seems uninterested in developing more comprehensive categorization facilities based upon taxonomies. Jan and Simon are therefore building TEC to provide intelligence in the energy sector based upon the comprehensive categorization, search and navigation facilities provided by Strix. Simon then presented a simulation of the interface being developed for TEC, which is based firmly upon a faceted approach where each facet is supported by its own taxonomy.

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